Thoughts on $4.50 per Gallon for Gasoline

In the last few months there’s been a great deal of publicity concerning the high price of oil and other fossil fuels. Maybe I’m treading in dangerous waters as a Prius driver, but it’s hard to see what part of this is surprising.

Since World War II the incidence of private car ownership has skyrocketed; before then you really had to have some wealth to own a car (and during the War there was essentially no production of cars). Also since the 1950s this country has build the greatest network of interstate highways in the world. This combines to make it remarkably easy to drive to nearly any part of our country; for my part I’ve driven cross country 3 times and found I could easily do this in about 5 days.

Additionally plane travel has gone mainstream. From 1937 to 1978 the Civil Aeronautics Board regulated routes, fares, and schedules. There were relatively few airlines and air travel was so expensive that it was reserved only for the wealthy or business travelers. Since then the government stopped regulating air travel; this has led to a dramatic drop in prices and an increase in the number of airlines. Air travel is much more affordable to a much larger population.

These two changes have led to dramatic changes in our lifestyles. We Americans are used to going to Europe or Hawaii on vacation, buying timeshares as a way to see new areas, and move away from family secure in the belief that we can be there in a matter of hours if necessary.

Now that oil, which everyone agrees is a limited and nonrenewable resource, is getting expensive, this may change. We may find in the next few decades that we are going back to being limited in our mobility. We are already seeing the growth of “staycations” instead of vacations (admittedly an easy thing to do in San Diego).

Meanwhile, our President and his cronies, continue to fiddle and count their money. Their solution is to find new places to drill for more oil. The amount of oil they will find is negligible and won’t make much of a difference. The idea of conservation or alternative sources of energy simply aren’t on the table.

This is not a good time to own a Hummer.